Monday, October 31, 2005

Why, When I Was Your Age...

WARNING: What follows are the bitter musings of a bald, semi-toothless, miserable old poop. They will no doubt sour your entire day, as well as leave you yearning for a future when forced euthanasia of such crabapples is the law. Too bad for you, if you choose to read this.


When I was a kid, Halloween was much better.

There, I said it. I am now officially one of those wretched old bastards who complains about how things are and how much better they were. So shoot me. You'll be doing me a favor.

Have you seen It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown? That was how Halloween was when I was a kid. Beagles would climb up on top of their doghouses and fly off to shoot down German aircraft. It was great!

Well, wait a minute. Maybe that didn't happen. But the rest of the stuff did. Except for the part about sitting in a field all night waiting for The Great Pumpkin to show up. I didn't start doing that until after my first experience with angel dust. The sonovabitch didn't bring me any presents, either. All I remember is him saying, "Security? I've got a nutjob in produce. He's naked, squatting in the gourd bin, and I think he's trying to talk to a squash."

However, that's neither here nor there. What we're discussing is Halloween, circa 1967. The thing about Halloween, at that time, was that it was a night we kids got to dress up in costume, go out on our own, and try to amass huge quantities of candy. You waited for it to get really dark, so that it would be scarier. You stayed out later than you normally did, so that you could get to every possible source of candy within walking distance. And the only kids who had their parents with them were those not old enough to go to school yet.

First, you generally made up your own costume. It was a point of pride. If you had to buy a mask, it sure had to be one hell of a good one to pass muster. As a result, there were great multitudes of hobos, pirates, and clowns, since nobody usually had the props for anything more ambitious. You could be a ghost, of course, but you were risking your life. This was because our moms would have killed us if we cut up a good sheet.

Occasionally, one of the boys would make the mistake of dressing in drag, commandeering make-up, a wig and high-heels from his mother or sister. While it may have seemed like a good idea at the time you thought it up, and would get great laughs from the adults, it usually resulted in unmerciful teasing from your buddies. Unless you were an extremely macho kid, you didn't try to pull that one off. Of course, drag probably isn't an option now. It would be seen as transvestite-bashing or cross-gender-bashing or something that somebody somewhere might take offense to, God help you. You don't want the ACLU on your kid's ass.

There are much better choices for store-bought costumes than there used to be, of course. If I was a kid and I had the chance to really look like The Thing for a night, I'd probably jump at it. And it's extremely un-PC to dress like a homeless person, so not too many tramps make the rounds now.

Next, any one of my friends would have been mortified to have a parent making the rounds with him. Part of the deal about Halloween - not said, but implied in our pre-adolescent minds - was that if you were able to walk to school by yourself, you were old enough to go out trick-or-treating by yourself. It was a rite of passage, at least in my neighborhood. How many kids go out on their own now? Any?

Yeah, I know. It's a different world out there. There are child rapists and kidnappers lurking behind every bush. Hell, the people you would have most readily and unhesitatingly trusted to keep your kids safe in those days (priests, teachers) are the ones making headlines for lewd behavior now. Sheesh.

We went as late as possible and stayed out as late as possible. Now, even with parents accompanying most of the kids, it begins earlier and ends earlier. Part of the thrill, for us, was being out on the streets after a certain hour, with the implied permission to do so. That was slightly scary in and of itself.

We went as far as six or seven blocks away - as far as our own inner sense of security would let us go - whereas during a regular day of the year we never strayed more than three blocks from home. This is because kids have a sense of territory, just like dogs or cats, and you didn't venture too far beyond your own neighborhood because you knew that you might be invading someone else's turf. If you did, and you got beat up, you knew you had no real right to complain. But, on Halloween, if the disguises were good enough, you went further. Who knew who was under that mask? That was part of the daringness and fun of the night. Now, even with parents (maybe especially with parents) you only go to places you know.

In my day (in the before-time!) we'd gather as much booty as we could. And some of it might be unwrapped, or homemade, or otherwise not absolutely secure and safe. We always heard the stories about razor blades in apples, so if we got an apple we cut it up before we ate it. Other than that, we didn't give a damn. If it was candy, it went in our mouths. Now, unless it's a recognized brand-name securely-hyper-wrapped candy bar, it probably goes in the trash when the bag is emptied at home.

Need I go into the fact that we got full-size candy bars, while now people give out barely bite-sized treats? No, I didn't think so.

Some parents won't even let their kids go trick-or-treating. So, maybe they send the kid to a party. Or maybe not. I can't really imagine today's parents letting kids do the things they used to let us do at parties. Bobbing for apples? Why, little Johnny might get some water up his nose! That's a lawsuit, for sure. It might affect his psyche and take years of analysis to overcome. Nevermind the possibility of damaging his teeth on a hard apple, or maybe catching pneumonia from that wet hair. And you're going to tell the kids ghost stories? No, we can't have that. You might traumatize them.

Man; I know, I know. "You're not a parent, so don't suppose that you know what's best for my kid!" You're absolutely right. That's why I'm not a parent. I'd be a crummy one. At least I've had sense enough to realize that. There are armies of folks out there who haven't a clue.

OK, enough. With that short sidetrip into general-societal-rant territory, I'll stop. I told you what was coming, but you didn't listen, did you?

Old poop out.

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